A Senior Lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire believes the chocolate Easter egg culture needs to change in the face of rising childhood obesity.
Dr Shaobo Zhou, Senior Lecturer in Nutritional Science has spoken about the over-consumption of chocolate eggs during the Easter period and how manufacturers, retailers and parents need to do more to promote healthier eating among children.
He said: “Easter, a central date in the Christian calendar, is now more synonymous with children gorging themselves on chocolate eggs high in calories, sugar and fat. With childhood obesity at epidemic levels in the UK (more than 34% of children aged 10 and 11 in the UK are either obese or overweight*), it’s high time that the government, chocolate manufacturers, retailers and parents all take action to curb the detrimental intake of junk food around Easter.
He has also called for retailers and manufacturers to stop strategically placing Easter egg displays in store to attract the attention of children.
He added: “During Easter, unhealthy eating habits in children are exacerbated through a ready supply of chocolate, as well as aggressive marketing and advertising by manufacturers and retailers.
“Often, large and colourful displays of Easter eggs are strategically placed in store to attract the attention of children. This practice needs to stop – it’s manipulative, unethical, is having an adverse effect on the health of our children and placing further stress on an already stretched NHS.
“Manufacturers have a responsibility to produce healthier Easter eggs, using less additives and sugar, and more natural ingredients, such as good quality cocoa powder. The government should also consider regulations to reduce the size of these eggs, some of which are obscenely enormous, and put an onus on manufacturers to give clearer instruction to parents of what constitutes a recommended child portion.
“Parents can to do their bit too by:
· Controlling the intake of chocolate and junk food by implementing strict daily portions
· Replacing milk chocolate eggs with darker chocolate alternatives. Dark chocolate contains higher levels of antioxidants and has associated health benefits when consumed in moderation
· Examining and comparing the fat, sugar and additives of each product to assist with sensible purchase decisions
· Encouraging friends and relatives to buy alternative gifts for their children
· Taking time over the Easter break to enjoy outdoor activity with their children
“While Easter is a challenging time of year for parents trying to instil healthy eating habits, the child obesity epidemic will not be solved through short term measures. Promoting a sensible, varied diet, exercise and an active lifestyle all year around is essential.”
* Source: House of Commons Briefing Paper on Obesity, March 2018.